Business Strategies

Bumble Bee Files for Bankruptcy Protection

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

Nov 22, 2019

Bumble Bee Foods, one of the big three tuna canners -- and price fixers -- on Nov. 21 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The filing included an agreement to be acquired by Taiwan-based FCF Fishery, its largest creditor, for $925 million.

Bumble Bee noted its indebtedness has ballooned due to recent "significant legal challenges,” a reference to its 2017 guilty plea to fixing tuna prices along with Chicken of the Sea and Starkist. Bumble Bee was fined $25 million and still owes $17 million to the U.S. Dept. of Justice. The company also faces civil lawsuits related to that case, according to reports, although it settled earlier this year with foodservice/distributors Sysco and U.S. Foods.

StarKist in September agreed to pay the maximum fine of $100 million for conspiring with its two competitors to keep prices for canned tuna artificially high from 2011 to 2013.

Bumble Bee first hinted at the possibility of bankruptcy this past summer when it hired AlixPartners LLP, a turnaround firm, to help it restructure its debts.

FCF Fishery’s bid includes $275 million in cash and $638.5 million in debt, according to CNBC.com. Even with both parties agreeing to the deal, other offers could come in during bankruptcy protection. Lion Capital, a London-based private-equity firm, bought Bumble Bee in 2010 for $980 million.

Bumble Bee was nearly acquired in 2015 by Thai Union Group Public Co. Ltd., but that deal was terminated because of anti-trust objections by the U.S. Dept. of Justice. Thai Union already owns Chicken of the Sea.

Despite the bankruptcy proceedings, Bumble Bee expects that its U.S. and Canadian operations will continue uninterrupted, CNBC.com reports.